Kay Carlson - Plein Air Colorist - Oil Painting


California Colorist en plein air

“My intention is to see beyond the physical qualities within a landscape. I choose locations in which the essence and story are more than contours and lines. My passion is to capture with oil paint the light that illuminates our landscape or water’s edge, finding my emotional inspiration at the same historical sources as the California Colorists.

On the coast near my longtime waterfront Sausalito studio I explore when the waves, clouds, and atmosphere create visual drama. In the fields of Napa Sonoma wine country, I work with an outdoor easel and palette vibrant with scarlet autumn vines. I create images which light up people’s lives, opening
them to deeper perceptions. I share these paintings as a joyful meditation on seeing, a dialogue in paint with the seasons, water, and land.” —Kay Carlson

A plein air /studio painter specializing in Northern California scenes, Kay Carlson’s colorful brushstrokes instantly usher her viewers into an emotional connection with the vineyards, and panoramic coastlines she calls home.
Kay Carlson received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in English Literature and studied postgraduate painting at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Her accomplishments include over forty solo exhibitions and hundreds of group shows. Solos include the Mondavi Winery, the University of California, and the BankAmerica World Headquarters in San Francisco. Her work has been displayed at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, Spain, the Extemporanea di Nicola XXI in Tuscany, the Marin Community Foundation, M3Com and Loral Corporations in San Jose, and a host of galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Oregon and California. She was awarded the American Impressionist Society 2nd annual Merit award.


Born: Wisconsin 1971 Moved to San Francisco


1970B.F.A. in English Literature, University of Wisconsin
1972-75Post Graduate Study in Painting, San Francisco Art Institute
2005Wayne Theibaud critique seminar, University of California, Davis
2007-10Jove Wang Workshop, Marin Art School, Novato, CA
 Cedrick Egeli Portrait Workshop, Cape Cod, MA

Selected Solo Exhibitions:

2016Madrigal Wine Gallery, Sausalito, CA
2006, 2014Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville, CA
2009, 11Wm Torphy Fine Arts, 255 & 201 California St. San Francisco, CA
Linda Penzur Gallery, San Anselmo, CA
Crome Architecture, San Rafael, CA
2000-94 –11University of California at San Francisco CA
1996Sausalito City Hall, Sausalito, CA
1994Bank of Marin, San Rafael, CA
1992Amex Corporation, San Rafael, CA
1991University of Wisconsin Wood County Center, WI
1989BankAmerica World Headquarters, San Francisco, CA

Selected Group Exhibitions:

2021-22Sausalito Chamber of Commerce Center, Sausalito, CA
2019TedXMarin Artist Showcase, online juried exhibit
2018Marin Civic Center, 25th Anniversary Marin Open Studios, San Rafael
2015Google, San Francisco CA
2015-17Lymelight Foundation “Dart for Art” juried art auction
2012 & 2017Marin Community Foundation, Sourcing Color, Novato, CA
2012Robert Beck Gallery, San Anselmo, CA
2011Museum of Contemporary Art, Novato, CA
Gumps’ of San Francisco, CA
2009-10Pearl Canyon Gallery, Carmel, CA
2008Claudia Chapeline Gallery, Christo’s Curtain Stinson Beach, CA
2005-6-8Charles Campbell Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Marin/Scapes, Escalle Winery Exhibition, Larkspur (also 1992-96)
From the Artists Hand, Marin Civic Center, San Rafael, CA
525 Market Street Corporate Exhibit, San Francisco, CA
2003Extemporanea di Nicola XXI, Nicola, Tuscany, Italy
2002Outside in, Inside Out, Picasso Museum, Barcelona, Spain
2001“A Personal Need” Manuel Neri’s Collection, Benicia Art Center
American Impressionist Society, Wm Lester Gallery, Point Reyes St
101 California Street Red Umbrellas Exhibition, San Francisco, CA
1999-2010Falkirk Annual Exhibition, Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael CA
1997-2019Sausalito Art Festival, Sausalito, CA
 Hearst Art Gallery, St. Marys’ College, Moraga, CA
1991-7-9-22Mill Valley Art Festival, Mill Valley, CA (poster 2004)1995-98-00
1995Nordic Five, Carnegie Art Center, Turlock, CA
1993-2022Marin Open Studios, Sausalito CA
1991-2022Industrial Center Building Annual Open Studio, Sausalito, CA
1991-94-02Bolinas Museum Miniature Exhibition, Bolinas, CA
1991Grants Pass Museum of Art, Grants Pass, OR
1990LEAA Southwest Regional Exhibition, New Mexico College, Hobbs
 3 COM Corporation, Santa Clara, Ca & Loral Corporation, San Jose
1989Jan Holloway Gallery, Marin Six, San Francisco, CA
1984Sarah Rentschler Gallery, New York City, New York
1979Kathryn Markel Gallery, New York/ Source Gallery, San Francisco


2022Shades of Blue, Bronze Award, Camelback International Gallery
2004Poster for the Mill Valley Art Festival, Commission
2000American Impressionist Society 2nd Annual Merit Award
1991University of Wisconsin Honorarium and Guest Artist Lecture

Teaching/Art Related Employment

2012-22Marin Open Studios Executive Director, Founder in 1993
2013-21ICB Artists Association Board Member, Sausalito, CA
2018Juror, Sausalito Art Festival
1997-00President & Board Member, SIGHT/INSIGHT Art Center, Mill Valley
1998Project Director Underground Gallery, Downtown Art Center San Rafael
1992-19Tamalpais Community Education Teacher, drawing, painting
College of Marin Instructor
2012Marin Arts Council Board Member (previously 1990-94)

Selected Collections

  • BankAmerica Corporate
  • Collection, San Franciso, CA
  • Manuel Neri, Benicia, CA
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • Intel Corporation, Boston MA
  • U.S. Department of Labor, San Francisco CA
  • Vijay Mallya, Sausalito CA
  • Environmental Protection Agency, San Francisco
  • Chuck Curley,Larkspur CA
  • Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, Seattle WA
  • Peggy Haas, Ross, CA
  • Robert, Magrit Mondavi, Oakville, CA
  • Sim Vander Ryn,Sausalito CA
  • Federal Home Loan Bank, of San Francisco, CA
  • Peter Sullivan, SanFrancisco
  • Roberta Romberg, Napa, CA
  • Marc Weill, Greenbrae,CA
  • Maureen Blanc, San Franciso, CA
  • Maureen Bluedorn, New York
  • Pierre and Maureen Guidetti, Mill Valley, CA