In Living Color: Artists captured spring on canvas during “Cross Pollination” at Ventura Botanical Gardens.

BARBARA BROWN inspired by a beautiful vista.

Photos by Viktor Budnik

An exceptionally wet winter has Ventura County bursting into full bloom this spring. Nowhere is this more evident than at Ventura Botanical Gardens (VBG), 100+ acres in the foothills directly behind Ventura City Hall that are home to more than 100,000 plants from Mediterranean climates across the globe. Plant species from Chile, South Africa, Australia and California have flourished thanks to ample rainfall, and are bursting into a kaleidoscope of color.

RUBEN ZAVALA strikes a pose.
JOHN ROBERTSON laying paint on canvas.

VBG staff knew that this would be an especially verdant year, and planned accordingly. They welcomed 13 regional artists to participate in a special “Cross Pollination” Plein Air Invitational, which kicked off with a “paint out” April 6-7. “En plein air,” of course, is French for “open air,” and in the art community refers to artists composing their works in real time, outdoors, where ambient light, weather and sights serve as inspiration. With hundreds of flowers, plants, stones, natural and manmade wonders and extraordinary views all on display, Ventura Botanical Gardens is a visual feast just waiting to spark creativity.

VBG TEAM Joseph Cahill, Denise Sindelar, Shana Smith,
Barbara Brown and Tracy Long.
RON ZOLKOVER among the wildflowers.

After weeks of rain, wind and cold temperatures, organizers were delighted to have clear skies and sunshine during the 2024 Plein Air Invitational. Artists gathered Saturday morning, April 6, at the Merewether Visitor Center for a meet and greet with staff and garden visitors. Then, they packed up their supplies and headed to their favorite spots to contemplate, sketch and paint the flora, fauna, landforms and views. People hiking the trails throughout the weekend had the opportunity to see the artists at work.

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS Salvador Correa, Laura Jespersen, Ruben Zavala, Jorge Beltran, Barbara Brown, Doug Singletary, Kevin Gleason, Kay Zetlmaier, Anette Power, Ron Zolkover, Steven Curry and John Robertson. Seated: Margaret Garcia and Mary Scott.
CISTANTHE GRANDIFLORA blooming in the Chilean garden.

Artists participating in the Plein Air Invitational included Barbara Brown, Steven Curry, Margaret Garcia, Kevin Gleason, Jeremy Harper, Laura Jespersen, Anette Power, John Robertson, Mary Scott, Doug Singletary, Ruben Zavala, Ron Zolkover and Kay Zetlmaier. Finished works will be shown starting May 11, with a reception at the gardens taking place 2-4 p.m. Afterward, the paintings will be exhibited and available to purchase on the VBG website at All proceeds will benefit the Ventura Botanical Gardens and the participating artists.

LAURA JESPERSEN chats with garden hikers.
BUSH SUNFLOWER with an ocean view.