Fields of gold (or pink, or orange…)Carlsbad and Lancaster, CA; La Conner, WA

Skagit Valley tulip field sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Obviously I have a thing for standing in a field carpeted with flowers and busting out the ol’ watercolors—because not only does it crop up (no pun intended) again and again on this blog…

Excerpt of "The Best Coast" book by Chandler O'Leary

…but it’s also a recurring theme in my new book. The fun part, of course, was traveling to all these flowery places and experiencing them in person for research. The tulip fields of the Skagit Valley were well-traveled ground for me, so I was already familiar with the hybrid nature of the place: half working agricultural region, half tourist attraction.

Excerpt of "The Best Coast" book by Chandler O'Leary

Ranunculus field sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Then there were the Flower Fields of the southern California coast: while this ranunculus haven still sells seeds and starts to gardeners, the place has become a full-on tourist trap, complete with ticketed admission and concession stands (it’s still totally worth it; the fields are stunning).

Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve sketch by Chandler O'Leary

My favorite, however, were the wild California poppy fields of the Antelope Valley. Visiting this place took both planning and luck, because no tourist trap could make the valley bloom on schedule. In fact, it took me many attempts, over years’ worth of SoCal road trips, to see the poppies in person, thanks to a seven-year drought that made the delicate desert landscape inhospitable to flower blooms.

Excerpt of "The Best Coast" book by Chandler O'Leary Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve sketch by Chandler O'Leary

When I finally made it at the right time, under the right conditions, the experience was nothing short of magical. It made every previous, failed attempt worth the time and effort, and had me plotting future trips on the spot. It really drove home (apparently my brain churns out puns involuntarily, sorry) the fact that it’s not enough, for me, to know a place exists before I feel I can write about it. I have to experience it for myself, see it with my own eyes, and use my hands to commit it to paper with pen and paint, if at all possible. It’s an enormous privilege to be able to do this—and sharing that moment and others like it (or at least attempting to) is what creating this book was all about. I can only hope a tiny glimmer of that comes through onto the page—and that it inspires my readers to go to these places, so they can experience the real thing for themselves.

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Comments (1)

  1. Jennifer Zinn

    I can only imagine how breathtakingly beautiful those seemingly-endless fields of poppies and other wildflowers are. Thank you for capturing them for those of us who can live vicariously through your art!

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