Skip to main content

Style Magazine

Bill Monaghan

Jul 31, 2008 05:00PM ● By Super Admin

Artists have long painted alfresco, but it’s a select group who dubs their work as plein air – the French expression used to describe the art of capturing the beauty of natural light and elements by working exclusively outside.

El Dorado Hills resident Bill Monaghan has been setting up canvases in the sunlight full-time for more than three years, and after extensive time spent in his own backyard, the Napa Valley, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Sedona, he’s got much to show for it.

“I’ve always liked Monet and the Impressionist style, so I took some workshops and started using oils,” he says of his transition from a 20-year industrial product design career in San Jose to one of an artist in El Dorado Hills.

As an industrial designer, Monaghan was more or less an architect, developing unique designs for common use products. Though he has always been a gifted sketcher, Monaghan’s experience designing products through the use of form, materials, color, graphics and ergonomics has proved valuable in his new craft.

Now, Monaghan is toting his wares around the state and is setting up shop at numerous art events and showings. Locally, his playfully colorful works were on display at Z’s Wine Bar & Bistro on Embarcadero Drive in El Dorado Hills.

“He had some beautiful work that we enjoyed, and it worked with the vineyard theme we have in our [restaurant’s] dining room,” says bistro co-owner Richard Zibull of the Napa and El Dorado-themed canvases he selected for his establishment.

Deb Lawson, a stylist at El Dorado Hills Salon, has also selected Monaghan’s work to grace the walls of her business. “He does wonderful work and I have the same one in my bedroom,” she says of the Napa-inspired painting at the salon. “He started coming to me and told me about his work, and I love it. It’s a lot of flowers and gardens and nature, and everyone in the salon just loves it too.”
Monaghan says the natural environment has always provided him with ample inspiration, and that the challenge of painting in changing light and elements is what attracted him to plein air.
“Because the light changes, you have to work quickly, and the thing about oil paints is I love the color,” he says. “But I’m still a bit more on the Realism side than I would like to be. I want to be a lot looser and I am working toward that.”

In fact, color might be what most often attracts visitors to Monaghan’s art show booths. He participates in more than a dozen each year from Tahoe to San Francisco. Art enthusiasts can find him at the 36th Annual Mammoth Lakes Fine Arts & Crafts Festival in August, and on two separate weekends in September at the El Dorado County Studio Tour.

Bring a little (or a lot) of plein air into your life with a painting by Bill Monaghan, he works with canvases of all sizes and he is available for commissioned works. To contact Monaghan or view his artwork, visit