Painter continues the tradition of California Impressionism

Toni Williams’ plein air banner is on currently display at the corner of 101 and G Street in Encinitas. (courtesy of Stephen Whalen Photography

The Encinitas Arts Alive banner project, now in its 14th year, has again attracted outstanding participants in its annual outdoor exhibit along Coast Highway 101. A notable banner painted by Solana Beach plein air painter Toni Williams is on display through mid-May at the corner of South Coast Highway 101 and G Street in Encinitas.Williams is known for her opulent use of color as she carries on the tradition of California plein air Impressionism. Her banner, a landscape depicting eucalyptus trees against a backdrop of warm terrain and richly colored sky, is representative of her distinctive painting style.

Raised in Port Jervis, New York, Williams came to San Diego in 1974 as a student at UCSD, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Arts. Although her formal training was oriented towards expressionism, she never lost her love of landscape oil painting. Through the years she was mentored by figurative painter Marileigh Schulte of Rancho Santa Fe, while studying through workshops led by notable painters Greg Carter, Calvin Liang, Mark Kerckhoff, Tom Balderas, Ray Roberts and Peggi Kroll Roberts.

Williams, whose first oil painting was accomplished at age 7 under her mother’s tutelage, says, “My parents completely influenced my creative life. They were constantly creating whether it be building a home, creating furniture, painting or reinventing objects for visual pleasure. Everything revolved around using one’s hands to create beautiful and exciting things.”

Her parents’ penchant for old objects led to an antique business conducted from their 1860s farmhouse. Williams in turn collects antiques and has a fondness for American Arts & Crafts Movement Art Pottery and furniture. She comments, “It all lends itself to my plein air painting style which would decorate the walls of this style of home.”

Willliams states, “My message through my work is totally encompassed by color harmony, lush pure color and grays that emphasize warm and cool temperatures rendered in an identifiable scene or human form.” Her work continues the tradition of the renowned California Impressionists, including William Wendt, Maurice Braun, Charles Fries, and Frans Bischoff. She comments, “Marion Whactel was personal favorite, being a woman plein air artist in a man’s world.”

A repeat participant in several annual events including Torrey Pines Docent Society’s “Art in the Pines” and Borrego Springs Plein Air Invitational, Williams says, “A woman’s success transcends into today’s world of outdoor painting as one must be willing to enjoy the physical rigors involved in plein air painting.”

Williams has received Best of Show and First Place awards in prominent local and regional shows including the Southwestern Art Association and La Jolla Art Association, and is a Signature Member of American Impressionists Society. She is also an active member of the California Art Club, Oil Painters of America, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, and San Diego Plein Air Painters.

Currently represented by Art Expressions Gallery and the San Diego History Museum, her work can be seen locally in the Rancho Santa Fe Gallery and online at





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