Internal Communications

There is a stage every painting I create goes through at the very beginning that I fall in love with almost every time. It’s not the polished end-game, it’s the initial quick sketch with the first few thin washes of color applied. There is something about that first reaction to the scene before me that happens almost by itself. It is purely joyful to me. After that stage I usually begin the arduous stage of building, building, building layer upon layer of heavier and heavier paint, just pushing, pushing until the painting finally looks like “my work” whatever the hell t…


Kansas City Star

This was a lot of fun to paint, and waaaay out of my comfort zone. If you know my work, you know what I mean. I’m a lot more comfortable painting rocks and trees inaccurately than I am doing the same injustices to the human form, but there they were, pouring themselves into their music for us only a few feet away. What could I do? I did my best. And this is where it landed. It’s especially meaningful to me as I’ve painted at live events while dozens, possibly hundreds of musicians have played nearby, but never a group of musicians I’ve known as long as these guys. Usually I just paint …


The President

Two things happened recently. First, I spent a week exploring and painting along one of mainland California’s most remote and mysterious coastlines. Missile launch silos. American flags. Chain of command and all that. But this painting isn’t about that trip at all except for one detail. One morning on the beach, miles from the nearest pavement of any sort, I came across some paw prints on the beach. I’d heard of mountain lions on this coast, and somehow I always pictured those cats, well, up in the mountains. The thought of one of these majestic beasts with sand stuck between its toes go…


Who Are You?

Let’s meet for tacos. I drag an art pal along and we meet up with a lawyer friend who has collected both of our works. The tacos are delicious but they are giant burgers and these beers are absolutely perfect. Another lawyer pal of the first lawyer shows up and another round ensues. We leave the funny tacos and head out to paint this spot for the collector friend. We drive a convoluted route through a college campus to a packed parking lot and wander off past the college kids all over the sandstone bluffs in search of this view. Once we find it, we scratch an X and we return to the lot a…


Not Exactly No

It was bright green And there wasn’t very much of it Still dripping with saltwater Across her goosebumped flesh I knew she was an artist Because as I fought to keep my focus Safely on the twin circles Of her eyes I could see they were dark And curious She saw me setting up on this cliff As she dipped under a wave Too cool off down below So she came up the path And straight for me It was a short conversation There wasn’t very much of it She wanted to see the painting I had barely even started The painting was at an awkward point That made two of us And I couldn’t say no Not ex…


Into the Sunset

Will this be your first? That was my stupid question for them I’m not very good at this They were really quite beautiful together A perfect young couple Watching another southern California sunset From the edge of crumbling cliff Over the mirror of the sea Clearly expecting A green flash I’d just finished painting the scene And drinking 3 beers That’s not exactly the usual During the course of a painting But friends had joined me today And it sometimes goes that way Words of wisdom Spoken by an old friend: “Nothing is better than a two beer buzz” Truth It doesn…


Where It Wishes

You never know where the wind will take you.
I generally avoid painting down at sea level.
I like to be up on the edge of the cliff.
Canvas bouncing in the wind.
But today I’m here.
Not of my own decision.
I’m painting this for some friends.
They’re moving on, and this, a parting gift.
You never know where the wind will take you.

The Brighter Side of Widowhood

As I was nearly finished with painting this scene I watched a woman descend the narrow path To this small cove With her child They were beautiful And complete As they were She didn’t need a husband down there Checking his phone Drinking too many beers Zoning out when his daughter called for him Showing off in the frigid water And looking more like a fat walrus on his return Than the finely sculpted merman He thinks he is They made me think of you And of us And if I should die before you Look at the bright side… No more beard hairs on the table On the floor On the kitchen counters I…


Thermal Windows

This private beach club cove once hosted a thriving whaling community. If one could activate time layers to run simultaneously we’d see grandmas playing smashball over bloody whale carcasses being carved away on the beach. But today is a quiet weekday and I see neither. I only see the quiet scene blurred through my sweating eyeballs as the southern California heat rises from the scorched desert at my feet. And speaking of whales and sweat, of coarse everyone knows that whales don’t sweat (I didn’t, I had to look it up just to be sure, but I strongly suspected they wouldn̵…


Mine… Or Maybe Yours

We met when we were older, when we had more swagger, and we stood a little closer to the throne. But we had a falling out between us, we’re artists, and we’re awkward, this is widely known. The fault was all mine, that’s what I’ve been told, but it could have been yours and yours alone. Years went past, we lost too much, loved ones, and our youth, a wife, and a home. There’s no point blaming each other now, we’re brothers, and anyway, our conflict was overblown. So today we stand here side by side and harvest the morning colors from the intertidal zone. This…


Proof of Concept

Plein air painting by Matt Beard of the California coast just north of Point Conception
Painted this one en route to a lighthouse at California’s greatest turning point. I was originally going to paint the beach park about 5 miles north of this point, just around that first bend in the distance of this painting. After walking about 30 feet north to seek a nearby view, not even getting out of the parking lot, I turned on a whim and walked south. For 5 miles. I did some things wrong. I didn’t check the tide. I didn’t consult a map. I didn’t bring any food. All I remember is reading that you could walk to the lighthouse now, so off I went. When I reached the…


Say Nothing

The land that lay directly behind me as I painted this distant view from one of California’s more central coasts belongs to none other than Neil Young, and having learned this I couldn't help but recall him singing the old Woody Guthrie tune This Land is Your Land: As I was walkin', I saw a […]…


Pale Blue Eyes

It’s true, that fog just lingered on, and on. Those pale blue eyes…
I saw a burst of blue sky while rounding a bend and thought for sure the fog was lifting. That was my mistake- thinking anything was sure about fog. I should know better. And I generally do, but the scene was truly beautiful so I thought I’d risk it for the biscuit and I barely got a sketch in before the fog went all gray and dark. I could still make out the foreground ok, but mostly just had to finish the piece on that first impression of a memory. All good. It can be somewhat liberating to chase a memory because it’s more of a feeling than a literal thing to look at and compare to. When it works it’s a lot of fun.

Something Not So Easy

If the previous painting of the day was titled Something Easy, well this would be the opposite of that. This place is hard. In many ways. And so was this painting. For a long few minutes, I didn’t think it was ever going to work to get this down the beach perspective. But what a dynamic place to hang and paint on a cool summer evening, I left the beach buzzing.

Something Easy

Not much to say here, just a nice day on the southern California coast.  Just a little something easy for those going through some hard times.

The Whole Wide World

This was a commissioned piece for a couple who was married on the bluff beneath those trees in the distance. It had me thinking of marriage and a song I’d been enjoying by Bill Callahan called Pigeons where he sings: when you are dating, you only see each other And the rest of us can go to hell But when you are married, you’re married to the whole wide world I thought that was pretty much genius and truth. So I named this painting after the song. Also unrelated to the title and song and all that, the wind was howling so much so that I had the easel blow over twice even with my weig…



Ever since I’d heard about the remains of this old pier at the bottom of a steep cliff, all covered in graffiti, I knew I’d need to paint the place. The morning fog kept me from being able to paint another cliff top vista nearby so I took advantage of the weather to paint these remains from a close distance where the fog wouldn’t obscure my subject completely. I didn’t know the graffiti would read “ether”. Seemed appropriate to me on this day where even one’s own thoughts seemed to vanish in the ether of fog every few steps.  Halfway through painting the sun burned the fog away and a beautiful morning light hit the remains and I went after it.

Nowhere Else to Go

Sometimes there’s just nowhere else to go. You might be the raindrop drifting freely from a cloud, your flight abruptly ending in earth. You might be the stream gathered from many mountains rushing down the valley locking into every twist and turn, hypnotized like a teenage race car driver, your mad dash halted by the edge of a cliff and suddenly you are a raindrop once again. Or you might be the thermal energy stored up and released in the wind and transferred to the ocean as you march a thousand miles, flinging water molecules in a great circle behind you as you run at the pace that yo…


Sorry Not Sorry

So this was different. There's a really great beach park 6 miles north of here that I hadn't painted for awhile. I was on my way through the area and thought it would be fun to return and see what I could do with it after a few years of pushing my art process a […]…


The Sea is for “California”

The Sea is for “California”
The Ay is for “Ay, it looks kinda fun out there”
The El is for “Where the El did all these people come from? It didn’t look this crowded a minute ago”
The I is for “I didn’t see you back there”
The Ef is for things I’ve heard out there that I can’t repeat
The Oh, is for “Oh look at this set coming in”
The Arr is for “Arr, that guy seems like he’s getting every wave with that massive log”
The In is for “Hey those guys just went in”
The I is for “I might get a wave or two now”
The Ay is for “ay, it is was super fun out there today”

Cottage Industry

Hot exhaust fumes hardening into tar deposits hanging in the air over the snow cone machines where the tourist buses come to die and pour out their guts just short of the hospital where elderly cottages are kept on life support by the steady IV drip of short-term rental vacation deposits.
This place is bought and sold to the masses as a glimpse back in time to an older California.
Except the older California didn’t have a gift shop.
I just came to paint and move on. It really is an adorable little cove though.

Jacob’s Ladder

This pier is condemned. Structurally damaged. And the scene here beneath the shadow of its condemnation is… interesting to say the least. Police patrols. Dealers. All manner of today’s American riff raff squaring off against the sunny California dream. Let’s call this man by the stairs Jacob. In the biblical narrative, Jacob was a deceptive manipulator out for his own gain. He’d stolen from his brother repeatedly and now was fleeing in fear for his life. We have no idea what bad decisions brought our Jacob to the pier here on this day. “And he took one of the stones of the pl…


No Van is an Island

Another view from the roof of my van. This was the next morning and only about 600 feet south of my last post. To be honest I pretty much just painted here because the prime parking spot had just opened up in this lot. It was a busy morning on a summerishly spring day and I was worried that if I didn’t stay here I might not find another parking place all day. I opted for the rooftop view this time not as much because of the compositional possibilities, but more just because it would give me a buffer from all the activity below… Walkers, joggers, and yoga bloggers. Bikers, skaters, likers …


Just Before Sunset

One of those summer evenings that make you just feel like life could always be this way. It can’t. But in the moment, maybe it sorta can. I painted this while watching one particular section of reef where wave after wave peeled across in perfection.  I couldn’t finish this quick enough. I caught one gem of a wave just before the sun set, a roller that passed under the outside reef and was setting up nicely just where I was hunting. The rest of the pack was further in and as I faded and stalled to line up the wave for a speed run when it stood up on the reef I heard someone screami…


The Boulevard

I came with a plan.
The plan was to paint these sculpted arches and coves and the sea at work around them while ignoring everything else. Forget the palms, forget the houses, forget the sun and the sky, forget the boulevard, and forget it’s name along with my own and just get lost in the weathered sandstone and rhythms of water and paint.
But I also came with a van. With a roof platform. And four other artist pals. And a cooler full of ice cold beer.
Next thing I knew I was up on the van painting, well, everything.