Painting Santiago Peak at Saddleback Mountain

A little while ago, I drove south of Los Angeles and into the wilds of North East Orange County where there several canyons and trails. I had my portable painting kit with me so I could start painting Santiago Peak at Saddleback Mountain.

Orange County California has a number of beautiful parks to visit and hike.  One visit brought me to O’Neil Regional Park in the canyon country near the base of Santiago Peak. 

Setting Up for Painting

Along a creek bed I saw this view and decided on it as a subject to paint.  Standing on the rocks and sand of the wash, I laid a nine by twelve panel on my portable easel and began to lay out little piles of paint onto my palette. The activity of preparation got me tuned in to the immediate environment around me. I could hear the gurgling water and feel the mild breeze, the sun was setting behind me.

Plein air oil painting and fine art print of Santiago Peak viewed from O'Niel Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon, Rancho Santa Margarita.
Santiago Peak, 2017 by Curtis Green

I could imagine what a rustic and remote environment this must have been to the early settlers.  I wondered how they made their way into the canyons, carving out little villages and stage routes.

Settling In Saddleback

On my view of the mountain, I knew there to be a small hidden village area called Modjeska. Odd, that a Polish name for the town is in a land where most are named after Spanish surnames. The area is named after Helena Modjeska, a polish born Shakespearian actress who was quite famous in the 1870’s.

Today, and not too far away are the freeways and urban sprawl that has become Southern California. Seeing this view of Santiago Peak was good place to connect with the area and imagine it’s history. I could imagine the spirits of the Native Americans, the Spanish, the Mexicans, the American Pioneers, and Helena Modjeska who have had their history here. Now we can tell the stories, imagine the past and add to the legacy. While painting this view of Santiago Peak, I felt as though I was being a part of that history also.

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