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 5 mile mark I couldn…


Say Nothing


The land behind me as I painted this view belongs to Neil Young, and I couldn't help but recall him singing the old Woodie Guthrie tune This Land is Your Land:

As I was walkin', I saw a s…


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.

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 ov…




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…


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 …


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


The pier is condemned. And the scene at the foot of the pier is... interesting. Police patrols. Dealers. All manner of modern American riff raff. Let's call the man by the stairs Jacob. In the biblical narrative, Jacob "took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep." Our Jacob sleeps with his head on the concrete. "And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth..." Ours is a cement stairway with metal handrails. "and the top of it reached to heaven and behold the angels of God ascending and d…


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 screaming beh…


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.

Capital Punishment


To kill a killer. Justice served. Except in this case I don't think the killer ever actually killed anyone, and even if so, it was certainly not intentional. "Killer" was only a nickname. In fact the "killer" was much loved and revered by California surfers until 1966, when capital punishment was dished out and the "killer" would be no more. You know what I'm talking about. But if you don't it should be too hard to look up. The clues are plenty. I will say this though, my wife's family was from this little town. There's even a massive photo of her grandpa Mel on the wall hanging in one o…


The Royal Treatment


Already a long day of painting, this was a late afternoon session down the street from a restaurant where I'd just ate and drank to my fill with an old friend. I was supposed to be delivering a fresh batch of canvas prints to the restaurant as well. After a relaxed meal I told them I'd be right back with the art that was in my van around the back, then promptly got to talking with my old pal about where I might go paint next and he wanted to show me this spot and we got so excited that I jumped in the van and followed him down the hill to paint this scene. About half way through painting it…


Hiding in Plain Sight


Between two worlds. The haves and the have-not-as-muches. The elite and the illicit. The sacred and the profane. The billionaires and the bankrupt. And everything in between. This place is hiding in plain sight. And so was I while painting it. Over the roped off area, sneaking a view of this peak, the prime spot in plain sight from the well traveled path on the grounds of an infamous con-man-in-chief, whose hired staff may or may not care that I was painting where I was.  Only one way to find out. They didn't care. But even if they had, I went after this one fast, laying a sketch at bre…


South by South


There are souths, and there are Big Souths, and there are places like this that are still south of those while still being north of many other souths, let the reader understand.

I’d spent the morning painting out on that headland just past the breaking waves, and the view in this direction made for a perfect bookend of an afternoon. Like justice being served.

Speaking of justice, we need to figure out how to serve justice to folks that are trashing beautiful places like this.  The view is worthy of the glossiest post card in the gas-station spinner rack, and yet the ground is covered in debris like the gnarliest gas station restroom you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s sad. Sorry to mention it here, but it’s hard to see and say nothing about. If it gets much worse I might have start including the toilet paper drifting in the wind in these paintings and nobody, nobody, nobody wants that.

Rags to Riches


A road closure not too far north of this headland made for a quiet night sleeping on a highway pullout. The view I'd come for was obscured by the marine layer which hovered about 200 feet above sea level s…


Twenty Twenty-One

Stylized painting of waves breaking on a steep beach during a storm on the northern California coast


This is a follow up piece to a painting I did back in 2020. You might remember that one, it was a little darker, a little stormier, a little more 2020. This one is 2021. It’s still dark and stormy but there is a break in the clouds at least for a moment.

I was thinking about the power of the ocean and how in spite of its beauty, it really doesn’t care about you at all and if you find yourself in the wrong place out there, well, you’re in a heap of trouble.

It may be a beautiful world for all of us at times, but just like the ocean, if you find yourself in the wrong situa…



Plein air landscape painting of the Wedge in Newport beach in Orange County on the southern California coast


To be honest I don't know why I'd never painted here before, I've painted a lot of Orange County beaches, both iconic and off the beaten path, but none more famous in modern times than this one. On…


Irish Coffee

A painting of the view overlooking Irish Beach on a clear morning on the Mendocino coast of northern California


A quick family getaway. An early morning stumble across a cow pasture. A desperate and failed effort not to spill my coffee while being distracted by this beauty. A fleeting glimpse of my wife jogging on the beach beneath the first light of day. How does she do that at this hour? I can barely walk.

Box of Rain

A painting of the Garcia Rivermouth near the Point Arena lighthouse on the Mendocino coast of northern California


And then there was this. I’d looked all my life for a wave like this peeling across an empty sandbar on a lonely coast in California. I could hardly believe my eyes. But even if they had betrayed me, there was also that feeling in the gut, the butterfly that gnaws and never lies about the presence of greatness, holy ground, and all that. Today was not the day to venture any further, but I’ll be back.

Prime Pelican Real Estate

A plein air painting of the steep cliffs of the Pelican Bluffs trail on the Mendocino coast of northern California


It had been awhile. We needed to getaway and we found what we were looking for on the Mendocino coast. A small house. Just our family and the wind and more beauty than one should rightfully be entitled to, unless it were by grace. Speaking of a different form of grace, pelicans are the masters, and it was a joy to paint this stretch of coast in their presence. What is going on with earth here though? Dizzying displays of plate tectonics. I set up a few feet from the edge, tying my easel to a small fence, partly to keep it from blowing away in the howling wind, and partly so I’d have something secure to grab on to should the heights send me spinning asunder.

End of Trail

A plein air painting of prayer flags on a barbed wire fence at the end of the Pelican Bluffs trail on the Mendocino coast of California


After finishing the previous painting, I ventured further on to explore this coast trail to its logical end. I found it here. The sign told me so. The ribbons and trinkets tied to the barbed wire fence spoke of the prayers of others who’ve walked this lonely path. And I thought to myself, “that makes sense… that’s what people do at The End.” The next day I returned with my family to share this beauty with them. It wasn’t so lonely when they were there with me. I didn’t think so much about Prayers or The End, instead we just sat and watched the whale spouts dancing like ghosts on the horizon.

The End of California

A painting of a passing storm looking toward the Oregon border on the Del Norte coast of northern California


I’ve painted the border fence at the Mexico border before, but this is the first painting I’ve done of California’s northern border. There’s really not much of a border there. Just a beach stretching into the distance. Oregon hasn’t yet built their wall to keep us out, but I won’t be surprised if they have plans in the works. On this day though, there was no need for a dramatic fence or wall, the weather provided the perfect border drama illuminating Oregon while leaving California in the dark.

The Entry Way

A painting of the beach at Houda Point near Camel Rock on Humboldt county's Trinidad coast in northern California


A fine late-winter day on our local coast. It doesn’t get better than this around here. I saw other painters perched at nearly every lookout on this short stretch of scenic road, but somehow I managed to paint this one without getting tangled up in any arguments about ultramarine blue.

No Mere Maid

An imaginative painting of a coldwater mermaid with neoprene wetsuit skin on a rugged Nothern California coast


At last! This one was 7 years in the making- just a quick pencil sketch way back when, set it aside, and forgot about it until I got a call back in November asking me to paint a “slutty mermaid”. That wasn’t gonna happen. But it reminded me of this idea for a north coast mermaid. She is strong, she is content, she thrives in a harsh and unforgiving environment. She is beautiful, but her beauty isn’t flaunted to feed or lure any depraved eyes. She is who she is, and she is No Mere Maid.⠀

The original sketch was just a whimsical idea, but as I started painting her it was l…