Tag Archives: Central Valley

Central Valley, CA sketch by Chandler O'Leary


I’ve written about California’s Central Valley before, and I have a feeling it’ll come up again. But there are just so many things to love about the place. Perhaps the best part of all is the birdwatching.

Central Valley, CA sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The Central Valley is a main thoroughfare along the Pacific Flyway, and hosts thousands upon thousands of both migratory and native birds every year. The best time to birdwatch is in the late winter, when the valley is otherwise at its most drab. While most of the human tourists are in more “interesting” places like the coast, the avian tourists are literally flocking to the Inland Empire.

So while most folks might consider the valley to be a flyover region that’s beneath their notice, birders might just find it to be heaven on earth.

California almond orchard sketch by Chandler O'Leary

In season

One thing I always look forward to about driving to California is watching the seasons change as I go. It never ceases to amaze me that you can go from winter…

Napa Valley sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…to spring, sometimes in the course of a single hour.

These two sketches were done on the same day, just over 60 miles apart. For this year’s trip, I’m planning to cover much more ground, and head much further south. Dare I ask? Will summer be waiting for me at the end of the line?

California carrot field sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Field geometry

Wednesday’s post reminded me that like lighthouses, I seem to have a whole collection of farm field drawings—like this sketch I did last year. I always thought the inherent lesson in one-point perspective (sketching nerds unite!) is what made these fun to draw. But now I think it’s the geometry. There’s just something so satisfying about finding perfectly ordered stripes and shapes interrupting a wild, unpredictable landscape.

Marysville Chinatown sketch by Chandler O'Leary

New day, new year

I made this sketch at the start of the last lunar year—on a crisp morning, surrounded by orange trees, in the still-breathing heart of a Gold-Rush-era Chinatown. So here we are, with another Chinese new year upon us—wishing you a happy and prosperous Year of the Horse!

California orange grove sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Sunkissed sketching

In my studio I have a massive collection of vintage fruit crate labels from the 1930s and 40s (they’re still fairly easily obtained here on the West Coast). So it’s probably no surprise that when I found myself standing in an orange grove this winter, all I could do was imagine my sketchbook plastered on a box of citrus and transported to a bygone era.